02/13/2008 1:00AM

Four skip Sophomore for this spot


SAN MATEO, Calif. - Four of the 18 3-year-olds nominated to Saturday's $55,000 Sophomore Stakes will run instead Friday in a $32,000 optional claimer at a mile at Bay Meadows. Many Rivers, Ican'tremember, Saipan, and Pleasure Grounds all opted for the earlier spot, a potential prep for next month's El Camino Real Derby, Northern California's top race for 3-year-olds.

Two of Friday's entrants, probable favorite Many Rivers and Standing High, are nominated to the Triple Crown.

Many Rivers ran third behind unbeaten El Gato Malo after setting the pace in the Gold Rush Stakes at Golden Gate Fields on Dec. 15. He was third again in a Jan. 4 allowance race there, tiring in the stretch. In the Jan. 27 California Derby, he was taken back off the pace and was steadied into the first turn, finishing 11th. Many Rivers is a half-brother to multiple Grade 1 winner Harlan's Holiday.

Trainer Dean Pederson will send out Pleasure Grounds, who has 2 wins and 2 seconds in 4 career starts. He was a troubled second behind Italian Rules in the Jan. 5 Stinson Beach Stakes at Golden Gate Fields.

There's no doubt that Pleasure Grounds can sprint. Pederson hopes the son of multiple graded-stakes winner Doneraile Court out of the multiple-stakes-winning mare Lucinda should be able to get one mile.

"At some point, you've gotta find out if they can get a mile," said Pederson.

"We've been thinking about routing him. He's level-headed and has good speed, but he's rateable. He seems like he can do it, but until you do, you're never sure."

Finding out how Pleasure Grounds reacts to a route could prove beneficial down the road, since there is some turf success in his family.

Pederson said he is not looking to run Pleasure Grounds in the El Camino Real Derby.

"That's a whole different type of runner," he said. "Pleasure Grounds has exceeded expectations for us. We're just looking to have a little fun with him. If he proves to be a useful horse, that will be fine."

Go for Cover earned an 88 Beyer in his only race, a sprint victory.